Business News Deals Legal Live Business Top Stories

Competition regulator approves Live Nation’s IOW Festival purchase

By | Published on Friday 15 September 2017

Isle Of Wight Festival

The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority has approved Live Nation’s acquisition of the Isle Of Wight Festival, concluding that the live giant’s latest expansion of its festival portfolio does not raise any competition issues.

As previously reported, the CMA announced it was investigating the IOW Festival deal back in April. Yesterday the competition regulator said it had sought views from across UK the live industry about the acquisition, as well as surveying several thousand former IOW Festival attendees. Following concerns raised by third parties, it also investigated the impact the latest Live Nation deal might have in terms of artist bookings, in addition to whether or not consumer choice would be negatively affected.

In a statement yesterday, the CMA said: “The evidence collected indicates that the Isle Of Wight Festival and Live Nation’s existing festivals were not competing particularly closely for customers. After the merger, people will continue to be able to choose between festivals owned by Live Nation and a variety of competing festivals. The fact that festival-goers also choose between going to a festival and other activities will also ensure that Live Nation continues to face sufficient competition”.

As for the possibility of the deal giving Live Nation an unfair advantage when it comes to booking talent, the CMA went on: “Following concerns raised by third parties, the CMA also investigated whether the merger would enable Live Nation to stop rival organisers of live music events – both festivals and concerts – from being able to book the range and quality of artists that they need to provide a competitive proposition”.

On that point the regulator concluded: “The evidence indicates that the merger will not materially strengthen Live Nation’s position in booking artists, and that a sufficient range and quality of artists will continue to be available for rival organisers of live music events”.

As also previously reported, while the CMA’s investigation was ongoing, the Association Of Independent Festivals published research into Live Nation’s position in the UK festival market, noting that the live giant controls nearly a quarter of the country’s large festivals (events with a 5000+ capacity). To that end, it proposed the CMA extend its IOW Festival inquiry to consider Live Nation’s increased dominance of this sector.

Responding to yesterday’s ruling, AIF’s Paul Reed said: “Firstly, I want to make it clear that we didn’t start the fire – AIF decided to conduct some research looking into festival market share once the investigation was in motion. We were surprised by the results, with a single transnational entity headed rapidly towards ownership of 25% of festivals in the UK over 5,000 capacity”.

The AIF report also noted that Live Nation is a significant player in tour promotion, artist and venue management, and primary and secondary ticketing, which gives the UK division of the US firm an even stronger hold on the country’s live sector.

Reed’s statement yesterday went on: “It is disappointing that the CMA has not take the opportunity to broaden the scope of the investigation into Live Nation’s overall position. That said, I think the research AIF published shines a light on the current and future structure of the live music market and the genuine concerns from grassroots independent festival organisers around consolidation and Live Nation’s vertical integration, with tentacles across all aspects of the business”.

He concluded: “The question is, how many festivals do Live Nation need to acquire before the CMA take this seriously and give the issues the proper scrutiny they deserve?”